Trump Speaking to the People, Not the Pundits

The GOP nominee scores well with ordinary voters despite pronouncements of disaster from the media

According to most political pundits, last night’s first presidential debate was a resounding beat-down for Donald Trump. Standing up against a prepared and polished Hillary Clinton, the GOP nominee was handed defeat.

To be fair, Trump could have been more polished. He let some key opportunities slip by that would have allowed him to hammer Clinton. He let his responses to questions over his own controversies linger without pivoting to Clinton’s own scandals and deeply entrenched failures.

“But the fact is, she was talking to Elite America. He was talking to Middle America, and that’s why I think that he won the debate last night.”

But the takeaways for elites in the media don’t necessarily represent what the average American voter thought of the first Trump-Clinton debate.

“Everything seems a little clearer, I think, to people after the first presidential debate. And, I think, in the end, the pundits view the debate through a far different lens — a different lens than the regular person who watches this,” LifeZette Editor-in-Chief Laura Ingraham said on “The Laura Ingraham Show” Tuesday.

“The optics of Hillary perfectly polished versus Trump kind of the brawler coming in there — polished and perfectly prepped hasn’t made America richer, hasn’t made America more efficient, hasn’t made our foreign policy more coherent,” Ingraham said. “Prepped, polished — that’s fine, but you actually have to have results that go along with prepped and polished. That is my take on this.”

Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager, told Ingraham that going forward she would love to see Trump do more of what he did very well during the first part of the debate — when he put Clinton on the defensive regarding her political legacy.

“And [the people] heard him loud and clear,” Conway said. “I also think that I agree with Senator Obama in 2008 when he famously said, ‘Hillary Clinton will say anything to get elected.’ And I’m going to remind Donald Trump of that. It’s an important lesson because she said things that weren’t true. She said things that obviously were canned, syrupy lines. They didn’t even fit with the moment or the content of what was being said. And [Trump] just has to keep the pressure on her.”

Saying that Trump represents the “70 percent of Americans who tell pollsters they want to take this country in a new direction,” Conway said that she and the Trump campaign will continue to present the choice of “change” going forward because Clinton is “the one with the record to be held to account.”

“Donald Trump — some of his most resonant lines to this moment, Laura, are the ones he started his whole campaign with, which is, ‘We have to have a country. We have to have borders. We have to know who lives here among us. And we have to be fair,'” Conway said. “It’s always a question of what’s fair to the refugees, what’s fair to the illegal immigrants. What about what’s fair to the American worker? What about what’s fair to the taxpayer?”

Byron York, chief political correspondent for the Washington Examiner, told Ingraham voters are still forming their impressions of the two candidates and their debate Monday night. It will take time to see what they thought.

“And when you look at the two issues we know are most important to the voters — that is, jobs and the economy and national security — Trump did well. He got his message across in the first half-hour, and actually did well,” York said. “I think what’s going to be really fascinating is, remember the key things: jobs, the economy, national security, keeping us safe. The key things he seems fairly strong on.”

Despite what the pundits were saying Tuesday morning, several unscientific online surveys found Trump the winner of Monday’s contest.

A CNBC online poll showed Clinton with 33 percent to Trump’s 67 percent at the time of writing. A survey offered by The Hill allotted Clinton with 36 percent to Trump’s 58 percent, with 6 percent calling a draw. TIME found Trump at 54 percent and Clinton at 46 percent.

But most surprising of all, the readers of hyper-liberal site Slate even gave Trump the edge. A poll from Slate showed Trump beating Clinton with 55.22 percent to her 45.78 percent at the time of writing.

Eddie Zipperer, assistant professor for political science at Georgia Military College, concluded that Trump is winning in these post-debate polls because of his “everyman quality” — a quality that has stuck with him throughout the primaries and continued into the general election.

“10 years ago, he wouldn’t have gotten near the nomination, but so many are so angry that they like seeing Trump tear down the political establishment, and that is something that’s totally lost on the punditry,” Zipperer told LifeZette in an email. “If the nation was mostly pundits, Trump wouldn’t stand a chance — but it isn’t. Many voters in Rust Belt swing states will be elated about Trump’s stance on trade, and the rest of the debate won’t mean much to them.”

Craig Shirley, a Ronald Reagan biographer and presidential historian, said Tuesday on “The Laura Ingraham Show” that he believes Monday’s debate echoes the 1980 debate between Reagan and President Jimmy Carter — a debate that the pundits said Reagan had lost.

“The people thought Reagan had won, and I’m wondering if the same dynamic is now playing out, as far as last night, played out in 1980, where the elite think one thing and the American people — the American people see things and they hear things differently,” Shirley said. “They are motivated by common sense, and what they heard from Trump last night was a lot of common sense about the border, and about security, and about the war, and about the economy and things like that. And what they heard from Hillary was a Harvard lecture. And God knows we don’t want a Harvard professor leading America.”

“But the fact is, she was talking to Elite America. He was talking to Middle America, and that’s why I think that he won the debate last night,” Shirley concluded.

In the end, Ingraham advised Trump to stick to his best points and always return to them during the next two debates: reminding voters of Clinton’s place in “the corruption machine in Washington,” of her part in the downward spiraling economy, and of her foreign policy disasters. And a little bit of humility wouldn’t hurt, either.

Ingraham said Tuesday on “Fox & Friends” that Trump should say the following to the American people: “I’m going to put you first and no matter what gotcha questions are asked tonight — you are still my number one priority and I’m really grateful to be here tonight and I’ve really learned a lot in the last year.”

“Those moments of grace, which we’ve all seen Trump have — I want to see those in the next debate,” Ingraham said.

Later Ingraham offered Trump an opening statement for the next debate on her radio show.

I’m not a politician. The first debates I’ve ever done were last year and it was with a lot of people. I’m a builder, I’m a businessman, and I’ve learned a lot this past year. I’m not always going to be perfect. I’m not always going to have the perfect, polished answer. But I will never abandon you. I will never leave the American people behind. I will not service big donors, I will not bow down to the lobbyists and the consultants. I’m on your side.

Hillary does abandon people when the paycheck is big enough, when the influence-peddling is attractive enough, when she just doesn’t have the stamina or the wherewithal to stand up and do the things you need to do when our ambassador and three other brave Americans are dying in Benghazi. She couldn’t be bothered to get herself over to the situation room to convene the counterterrorism task force or demand that Obama do it. So when her country needed her on the night of Sept. 11, 2012, Hillary Clinton wasn’t there. Let me tell you something: I will always be there for America, for our bravest men and women, and for you the American workers and the American families. I will never leave your side.

“He says that at the beginning of the debate — I just don’t see how she ever recovers from that,” Ingraham said.

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